Share This Page

Back to school for swimming star Schmitt

| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 7:34 p.m.
In this July 31, 2012, file photo, the United States' Allison Schmitt holds her gold medal after winning the 200-meter freestyle swimming final at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP)

ATHENS, Ga. — From Olympic star to just another college student.

For Allison Schmitt, there was hardly any time to savor her breakout performance at the London Games, where she won five medals in swimming. She had to get back to the University of Georgia for the start of her senior year.

“This is just a part of life,” she said Wednesday. “In London, we felt like we were in our own little world. But once you come back, it's back to real life.”

While many athletes were able to cash in on their triumphs, Schmitt, a Ross native, retained her amateur status so she could swim one more year for the Bulldogs. She's looking forward to competing in dual meets, the SEC championships and the NCAAs, even though some might view that as a bit anti-climactic after the Olympics.

“I love swimming for whatever is on my cap,” she said. “I'm honored to come back to Georgia for my last year swimming with a ‘G' on my cap.”

While overshadowed a bit by U.S. teammates such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, Schmitt was right in their class when it came to results. She won three golds, a silver and a bronze — just as many medals as Lochte and Franklin. The only London athlete, in any sport, to win more was Phelps, who claimed four golds and two silvers in his farewell Olympics.

It's a bit overwhelming to Schmitt, especially the part about fellow students recognizing her on campus.

“Someone stopped me as I was walking to the bus and said, ‘Are you Allison Schmitt?' And I was like, ‘Yeah, that's me,' ” she said, chuckling. “Somebody came up to me in class and asked for a picture. It's kind of weird when people recognize me.”

Schmitt took a year off from school to prepare for the Olympics, moving to Baltimore to work with Phelps and his longtime coach, Bob Bowman.

“I wanted to concentrate without the distraction of classes and a college schedule,” she said. “I knew I had to focus solely on swimming.”

She never wavered on finishing college, even though she could've been in line for endorsements after her starring role in London.

“Schmitty is the consummate team player,” Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. “I was always asked if she would come back, and there was never even a doubt about it.”

As for her medals, Schmitt is still trying to figure out a safe place to keep them. For now, she's been strolling around with one of her gold medals in her backpack.

“I don't go around and say, ‘Hey, check these out!' ” she said. “But with all the support I've had the past four years, if people ask to see them, I'm more than willing. They can hold them or try them on.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.